Thursday, October 23, 2014

44 . . .


October 23, 2014
Today, Gary and I would have been married forty-four years. If my life had gone as planned today we would have been together in Door County, Wisconsin hiking the chilly shores of Lake Michigan. We have gone there almost every anniversary from number ten on. Our traditional celebration would have included a chocolate/caramel/pecan Granny Smith apple, a steak dinner at the Glidden Lodge, a hike through Peninsula State Park, a walk along the shore looking for a heart shaped rock (which we always found), and an anniversary purchase at one of the antique stores in the area; Lots of holding hands and lots of talk about our future and our dreams for the coming year.
It was very different today, but not unpleasant. If you’ve tuned in to my blog the last few days you would know that I am in Florida with my friend, Judy. The main reason we’re here at this particular time is so I wouldn’t have to spend this day alone with just my memories. We are here so I can reclaim this day from the clutches of sorrow and loss and restore it to its proper place. This is the day that I want to always remember as one of my very best days.
 Forty-four years ago today, Gary and I were in Florida standing before a preacher (who happened to be my brother) in a little pink church building. We made promises and then sealed our vows with a ring and a kiss. I’m here to tell you that we kept those vows. And, that’s something I want to always celebrate and remember without hesitation.
Thanks to my friend, Judy, this day came and went with only a tiny bit of sadness. While Gary was never far from my mind, this day was not lost to weeping and longing. It was a day spent relaxing on the beach and jumping waves in the Atlantic. It was a day of collecting shells and even rescuing a jellyfish that had gotten stuck on the shore. It was a day of quiet talk, laughter and a great meal.  
It was a good day.
As for our Thelma & Louise Vacation experience, I have pulled ahead in the bad driving contest, but no speeding tickets today. Judy has now actually gotten into the ocean twice, albeit not without some whining. We have one more full day to pretend that we have no cares in the world and that we are independently wealthy and hiding out from the paparazzi. What’s on the agenda for tomorrow you ask? Salt water, sand and beach chairs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014



Hey, Folks. I’d like to introduce my friend, Judy. She is my guest blogger today. Enjoy!

I’m on vacation with my friend, Debbie. We have been friends for nearly forty years, and that’s a long, long time. We first met when her oldest son was 18 months old and we bonded immediately. We had so much in common—our husbands were both ministers. Debbie’s brother was a good college friend of my husband, Don’s, we all wanted to do mission work, and we all loved to laugh. That seemed like a lot in common.
Over the past forty years, Deb and I have learned that we actually have more differences than likenesses. So, yesterday as she was enjoying the great outdoors like a raving maniac and I wasn’t, she asked, “Why are we friends?” I couldn’t answer. We have such a bond but it makes no sense. Let me give a perfect example of why I have come to that conclusion.  We came to Florida because Debbie loves it here. She loves the ocean and the sand; it “fills her soul.” I find that this fine sand gets everywhere, sticks to my legs and feet, messes up a newly vacuumed car, and so on. Deb feels the healing power of the salt water, loves the way the waves explode up to the shore, and feels God’s power in every wave. I feel like my skin is shriveling from the salt in the water even more than it is from aging. It feels weird to me when the tide rolls in and moves the sand under my feet. I’m not on solid ground and I don’t like it. The ocean is teeming with all manner of strange creatures that might suck on my toes, or worse. I’d much rather enjoy the chlorine-filled pool that is closer to the house surrounded by concrete, which doesn’t dirty up my feet.
My friend is an encourager to me. She makes this realist stretch. She makes this non-adventurous soul step out of her comfort zone. Yesterday without her encouragement I would not have gone on a two-mile bike ride, especially after falling over in the driveway before we even got started. I would not have parked ‘said bike’ and hiked back to this point to watch the sunset, all the while being eaten by mosquitoes. Also, my singing would not have been drowned out by a locust, or cicada or katydid (we can’t decide which it was and don’t want to know). And, I certainly would not have gone into that freezing water at the pool while even more mosquitoes were chewing on me. I loved our trip to the beach today, but I wasn’t planning to go into the salty ocean. Once again, my sister encouraged me until I got out there with her.
Only two people in my life have made me want to stretch so much, my husband and my best girlfriend. “Thank you God, for both of them. And thank you for this week on the beach.”
Yesterday when Debbie wrote her flowery descriptive words in this blog describing the sunset, I asked her if she really thought that way. When she asked how I thought about it, I replied, “I thought it was real purdy!” She’s working on stretching my vocabulary as well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day One...

The Frugal Sisters do Florida-

      My friend, Judy, and I are on a Florida vacation together. It is a minor miracle that we survived the 15 hr drive, but here we are. We’ve been keeping score how many times each of us has nearly killed us both, and so far, Judy is winning. Her car has a really, really bad blind spot. So, she’s almost hit a passing car four times. As for myself, I’ve only done it twice. However, I did get pulled over for speeding right before we crossed the Florida line. That did bump me up a notch, and the fact that it cost me the same as a really good massage is a bug in my craw. The fact that Judy keeps bringing it up does show me what kind of a person she truly is.
     Our first day here was great. We ate our breakfast on the screened porch overlooking the channel with a lovely crane entertaining us with its fishing prowess. For lunch we met two of Judy’s sisters, and then back ‘home’ for a bike ride and a dip in the pool. The highlight of the day was riding our bikes to this point that juts out into the water to watch the sunset. We were a little early but there was a lone bench out on the point so no matter... until the mosquitoes found us. Someone forgot to tell them that it’s October and they should all be dead by now. Well, there was no way we could sit still on that bench without getting eaten alive, so I clipped off some dried palmetto branches and gave one to Judy and kept the other for myself and instructed my friend to dance. So, we did, for ten minutes or so we paraded around the bench dancing and swatting our hearts out. We resembled some really old fan dancers at the nursing home. The sun took its own sweet time sinking into the horizon. At one point I could have sworn the thing had decided to climb back up into the sky. But finally, after much sweeping, swatting and dancing, we were rewarded with the glorious sight that only God, himself could orchestrate. Oranges, golds, and pinks burst across the sky and did their own dance. All the swatting was worth it. I just hope no one was sitting on their porch with binoculars.
     All in all, it was a good day. What I love about my life today? A good friend who isn’t afraid to dance, and a God who gave her to me.
Blessings, friends.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Year Two . . .

The Frugal Sisters

And so the second year of my new life begins. I wished I felt as happy and confident as that statement sounds. My new life. There’s a whole lot I do not like about my new life. But, I’m not going there. Today, I’m going to take a brief look back and then turn and keep moving. 
Since I’ve been on my own I’ve taken on some new endeavors. In this last year, I’ve traveled to Guatemala on a mission trip, taken up archery and started painting. I kind of feel like the mom/wife character in the movie, Elizabethtown, who after her husband died, enrolled in a cooking class, a tap dancing class, and took up interior design all at the same time. But, please don’t worry about me; I’m just trying to figure it out as I go along. Nothing I’ve tried is completely out of the blue. I’ve always wanted to do foreign missions. When an opportunity presented itself this summer, I took it. For several years now, I’ve wanted my own bow. I was pretty good at archery in school and, I don’t know, I was hankering to shoot something. And, for years now I’ve wanted to learn to paint, to doodle around in acrylics and watercolor, so I bought myself some art supplies and started playing with colors. Am I any good at any of this stuff? Archery? Yes. Painting? Not really, but it’s fun. Missions? It’s a calling.
It’s been a long year and now it’s time to shed the old skin.
Of course that’s easier said than done. After a great loss, rebuilding is excruciating, but necessary. The only other alternative is to lie down and wait to die. That’s not my style. I figure, as long as our great God has given me life, I need to do something honorable with it . . .  and a wee bit fun.
So here’s what’s next for me. I’m selling my house and moving somewhere. Don’t know where yet, but I will. And as of last week, I am the proud owner of a 1987 Ford Encore Eldorado RV. With only 19,000 miles on the old gal, I figure she has some life still left in her. It had always been my husband and I’s dream to purchase an RV and hit the road. Our plans were to do that this summer, however, that didn’t happen. But, I guess it’s never too late to follow a dream, right? Now is not the time, but trust me, you’re going to hear more about the RV in future posts.
My bliss...
I’m going to do some traveling. Sometimes in the RV, other times the normal way by planes, trains, and automobiles. In fact, as I write this, I am in Florida. It’s an October evening, tomorrow it’s going to be in the 80’s and I’m right across the road from the ocean. God is good indeed. I traveled here with a dear friend. She and I have known each other for over thirty years and when we put our heads together, the fun just shows up. And, thanks to another dear friend, we have a lovely place to lay our heads at night.
Is my life the way I planned it? No. But, Someone planned it. Someone else is in charge of it, and my job is to surrender my will and recalculate my direction. But most importantly, I must continue to live it like a believer. So, Year Two begins. Check in and join me on the journey from time to time. I can’t promise you that everyday will be good news, but I can guarantee that the journey will teach us all how baby steps can get us to the finish line.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

One Year...

“We must be ready to allow ourselves 
to be interrupted by God.”
   ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer


OCTOBER 9, 2014- It has been one year since I last heard my husband’s voice. A year of desert and wilderness. A year of a cloud by day and a fire by night. A year of living one day at a time. A year of living dangerously close to sorrow and loneliness. A year of unceasing prayer. A year of relentless tears. A year of doubts and questions. A year of mowing grass and blowing snow on my own. A year of sleeplessness. A year of flu-like symptoms. And a year of wishing that each day before hadn’t happened. A year, a full year.
Twelve months. Three hundred and sixty-five days of mourning, missing and longing. I’m tired. I want it to end. Will it? Can it? Should it? Do you ever forget? Do you ever stop loving the one you lost? Is it ever all right? Is it ever over? Can I really circle a date on a calendar and begin again? Do I want to?
A year. Gary has been gone a year. His last words to me were, “I love you.” My last words to him were the same. God was merciful. God was there. Before his body left the house, I held Gary’s cooling hand in mine and prayed. First, I thanked God for the privilege of being his wife, and I asked God to help me live the rest of my days in a manner that would honor my husband and our life together. Then I asked God to show me how to love Him more. You see Gary loved God. He put his whole self into it. He lived it. He taught it. And I followed along. By his side, I was a better person. When my faith got shaky, Gary walked me through it until I was on firmer ground. His faith splashed over onto mine, making mine richer. I didn’t have to understand things, because Gary understood them and would explain it to me later. Gary did. So, I did. Partners truly, except he was the better. I knew this. God knew this. And, the minute Gary left me I felt the void. I felt my lacking. I was going to have to do better now, and I was going to have to it on my own.
Thankfully, my husband taught me how. He prepared me. Living by his side in his last weeks of life here, was amazing. I watched him prepare to leave as he made a video for the grandkids. He sat me down and went over budgets and insurances, and how to change the filter on the furnace. He began to withdraw a bit, but not in a sad way. In his last week, he would get very quiet and a far away look in his eyes. He was almost there. THERE. They were waiting for him and he heard Their song in the distance. Maybe he even saw Them, as They gathered around him. I was jealous as I felt Their tug on him. I knew that our bedroom had become the Holy of Holies. Where Gary lay, God stood.
During one of our last discussions Gary told me, “I think my last lesson to Oakhaven (our church family) will be to show them how a Godly man dies.” Well, mission accomplished, my love. But, make no mistake, you also taught us how a Godly man lives.
So, on this one-year anniversary, I have become the miracle. God has answered my prayer. I am living as one who was shown great love. And for the last three hundred and sixty-five days, my God has shown me how to live an interrupted life. With each teardrop, each sad moment, with each lonely night, with each tender memory, with each pass of the lawn mower, the Holy Father has made Himself known. My heart has been escorted to a place I never knew existed... and I love as never before.  
Thank you, my Darling, for the way you loved me and love me still. You are missed, but your voice is not quiet. Your song is still being heard. And, I can’t wait to sing it with you again. 

“This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”